Kashmir after Uri and surgical strikes: Protests abate even as unrest lingers
Like elsewhere in the country, the surgical strikes at terror launch pads in PoK has left Kashmir agog at the prospects of a major confrontation between India and Pakistan. The continuing cross-LoC exchange of fire and the attacks at Army camps and police stations in Valley have only heightened these fears.
However, these extraordinary developments have made a little difference to the existing troubled state of affairs – albeit, the number of the protests across Valley has registered a perceptible decline on all days except Friday.
It was during the protests following Friday congregation prayers that Junaid Ahmad, 12, was hit by pellets at Saidpora area of downtown Srinagar. He succumbed to his injuries at SK Institute of Medical Sciences early Saturday taking the toll in the 91 day long turmoil to 91, one killing for each day.
The communication blockade continues across Valley. Only least subscribed post paid phones are running which has drastically hampered the social engagement.
The reality now is that the Valley has been under curfew and shutdown for three months. Bazaars remain closed and the streets deserted. The neighbourhoods give a ghostly feel in broad day light. Trade and tourism has been crippled with the president of the Kashmir Traders and Manufacturers Federation Mohammad Yaseen Khan saying that Kashmir loses Rs 135 crore daily. The total loss has now gone up to more than Rs 12000 crore
Similarly, the education has been worst affected. Schools are shut and the children are confined to their homes. Ironically some schools have recorded lessons and posted study material online which in the absence of internet no one can access.
Fatima Rasool, a class 8th student of a branch of Delhi Public School in Srinagar can’t access the shortened syllabus posted online by the school, so she went to a friend who has broadband connection.
“I copied the syllabus on to the pen drive. I needed to print it but no printer was open. Now I can do nothing about it,” Aalima said. “But then even if I had got it printed, who would have taught me. My parents aren’t very well read and I can’t go to a tutor in the prevailing turbulence”.
But now the surgical strikes have only deepened the uncertainty. Nobody has a clue where the situation is heading. “Far from any improvement, the situation has only gotten worse by the day. And there is no knowing when it will end,” said Ashiq Hussain, a businessman in Baramulla. “But one thing, we want this political problem to be resolved once and for all. Our people can’t keep suffering endlessly”.
The post-Uri fallout has come as a serious disappointment to a majority of Kashmiris as it is seen to have nullified the “three month old uprising in the state”.
“People expected the ongoing upsurge to lead to the centre initiating a credible political engagement with Kashmir. Nothing of the sort has happened,” says the political analyst Dr Gull Wani. “Instead situation has only gotten worse. The turmoil in Kashmir has been left to linger on. This topped up with Uri attack and surgical strikes has now put a full stop to all Kashmir related efforts. Uri has only set us further back”.
Meanwhile, the cross-LoC bus service and trade across the Line of Control continues normally, which has given people some hope that India and Pakistan have not broken off all their ties.
The cross-LoC travel and the trade was started in April 2005 and October 2008 respectively as an outcome of the sustained Manmohan-Musharraf peace process through 2003-07 and were billed as the biggest Confidence Building Measure between India and Pakistan on Kashmir since 1947.
Though only a small number of the passengers travel through the bus and only a limited trade is allowed, the measures stand both as a symbolism and a reminder that an understanding is possible on Kashmir if it is pursued sustainably and with some determination. And now their surviving the latest Indo-Pak spat, when New Delhi is seeking to review the Indus Water Treaty and the Most Favoured Nation status to Pakistan has lent a sense of reassurance to the people and traders of the state.
“Though it is welcome, we fail to understand how the trade and travel has been allowed to go ahead amid the war rhetoric,” say Yaseen Khan. “More so, when the LoC trade comes directly under the control of union home ministry and the Government of Pakistan. J&K Government has little say in this”.